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Cattle for Many Different Avenues | March 2023

by Sarah Hill

Photos courtesy Kenny Angus

Kenny Angus strives for balance in breeding high-performance Angus cattle.

Putting it all together—phenotype, strong EPDs, carcass data, and outstanding maternal qualities—takes a focused effort on selecting just the right mix of genetics to result in outstanding cattle. The Kenny family, Schaller, Iowa, has spent decades building an Angus herd that truly puts it all together and is building their name in the beef industry.

Early Years

Brian and Sue Kenny started their Angus herd in 1990 by buying cows from a herd that was dispersing in Webster City, Iowa. They added to the herd with several embryo packages from Van Dyke Angus, Manhattan, Mont., known nationwide for top-quality maternal genetics. The Fabius Barbaramere cow family, owned by Dean Hoaglund, Bloomfield, Iowa, was added and has since left numerous top females in the herd to this day.

“We wanted ‘front pasture quality cattle’ that are in high demand, easy to sell and pleasing to the eye. Producing a top-quality product for our customers that will provide a consistently superior experience for the consumer,” Sue Kenny said. “We did our research, and there are a lot of other breeds, but we wanted to go down the Angus road, specifically.”

The family was drawn to the vast number of options in the Angus breed. “We continue to be excited by the many avenues available when it comes to Angus cattle, as there is no cap on what we feel can be accomplished, from calving ease to performance to end-product merit, phenotype, and maternal characteristics,” Dru Kenny, Brian and Sue’s youngest son, explained. “This gives our customers the flexibility to choose the path that will make them most successful, whether that is to retain replacement females, sell their calves as feeders or finish them out. The options are limitless and that is what excites us and our customers.”

Over the years, they built up the herd by keeping many of their own heifers. The Kenny family had sold bulls and females through consignment sales; taking cattle to National Western Foundation Female Sale, Sioux Empire Farm Show, Iowa Angus Bull Test, and Iowa Beef Expo; and participating in a group bull sale before launching their own sale in 2018.

“We’ve also had a big demand from cattle producers that own other breeds,” Sue said. “Guys who are looking to raise half-bloods or club calves—our females are a foundation for those breeders.” The family also raises corn, soybeans, and Jolly Time popcorn.

Kenny Angus Today

The herd always welcomes a new donor cow. Females calve in December and January, and calves are weaned around Memorial Day. After the females have been artificially inseminated or had embryos implanted, they are taken to the Sandhills of Nebraska, where there is an abundance of grass for grazing. Meanwhile, half of the herd stays in Iowa to graze. The females return to the farm headquarters in late October, prior to calving, where the development center is located. “We wanted to test whether the cattle would hold up in bigger country, and they have thrived in both Iowa and Nebraska,” Sue explained.

The family chops corn and triticale for silage, along with ground hay, that’s fed to the developing bulls, replacement heifers, and cows in a mixed ration. Although they raise excellent corn in the area, the Kenny family opts to sell the corn and feed hay in a high roughage ration to the breeding herd, to ensure longevity, sound feet and legs, and high fertility.

“One of our favorite projects is the hunt for the next great sire or female that we feel will benefit us and our customers,” Dru said. “We focus on ensuring that our cattle have superior feet, performance, and calve easily for our customers to succeed. We want the cattle to be effective for both our own operation and for our customers.”

Dru visits several bull studs before selecting sires for inseminating the herd. The Kenny family likes to see a bull before committing to using him on their herd.

Selecting for Balance

Sires selected for breeding to Kenny females must possess the ideal look, as well as excel in terms of genotype, curve-bending performance, and high-end product merit. At this year’s sale, the family will be selling bulls and replacement heifers out of Basin Safe Deposit 9324, Baldridge Pappy, Connealy Clarity, EXAR Grenade 9152B, SS Enforcer E812, SydGen KCF Gavel 8361, and more.

The Kenny family likes to have as much data available on their cattle as possible, and they utilize carcass ultrasound and genomic testing, which includes parent verification, in addition to taking birth weights, weaning weights, yearling weights, and scrotal measurements. All bulls are semen tested before the sale.

“We like to have the cattle hit the top 25 percent of the breed, on average, in as many EPDs as possible,” Sue said. “We have lots of bulls with high numbers for certain traits, but we don’t want to sacrifice one thing to get an extreme of another. We want a balanced animal – functional cattle that really perform for our customers and get the job done with few problems.”

Docility is another trait the Kenny family strives to maintain in their cattle. The cattle are checked multiple times a day for heats, and frequent interaction helps boost their docility. The Kennys have been utilizing AI and ET for more than 30 years, with the express goal of keeping their cattle on the cutting edge of genetics for their customers.

At the 2022 sale, the Kenny family sold their bull Kenny Rogers to ST Genetics for an all-time high (in Iowa) of $135,000. Today, there’s a waiting list for Kenny Rogers semen. The family is excited to see how his calves turn out. “He’s performing on all cylinders, impressive growth, good phenotype, moderate birthweights, and favorable carcass genetics. Plus, he’s out of a powerhouse cow,” Sue stated.

Taking Care of Customers

At the annual sale, held the second Friday in March, the Kenny family will sell approximately 50 bulls, 15 replacement heifers, 15 bred cows, and pairs. Bulls are about 15 months of age when sold and many are housed at Kenny Angus until delivery around May 1. The Kenny family has sold cattle as far west as California and Utah, and as far east as Pennsylvania, and they offer free delivery nationwide. Last year, through hosting the sale on DV Auction, there were viewers from 31 states and Afghanistan watching the sale.

“We also have a program called ‘Leave ‘Em & Breed ‘Em’ for our replacement heifers. If a customer buys a replacement heifer and would like us to AI her and deliver her after breeding, we will use any bull of their choice,” Sue said.

Customer service is very important to the Kenny family. If a problem creeps up with a female or bull, the family wants to take care of it, whether that’s providing a new bull or giving the customer credit for the next year’s sale. The family says they’re fortunate to have repeat customers because their bulls get the job done.

“We don’t sell hundreds of bulls like some breeders, which allows us the ability to put extra focus on customer service,” said Sue. Dru agreed. “Our mission is to build a product and service that allows our customers to maximize their profits and be happy when selling their calves and visiting their summer pastures,” Dru explained. “We strive to build great relationships with our clients so that we can create lifelong customers, which we feel is achieved by treating them with the respect we would want to be treated with and by providing real, long-term results that help make them profitable.”

All Hands on Deck

The Kenny family’s commitment to beef production runs deep, with the sons being fifth-generation beef producers. The entire family helps out in the operation. Brian and a hired hand take care of calving chores each morning, tagging and weighing calves. Sue and Dru do the feeding and they all chip in with calving checks around the clock. “Dru graduated from South Dakota State University in 2017 and returned to the farm, and Brian and I are wanting to slow down a bit, so it’s working pretty well,” Sue said.

Oldest son Dustin serves as the auctioneer on sale day, while his wife, Kate, helps clerk. They have two children, Paisley, age 8, and Kolt, age 5. Middle son Tyler lives in Des Moines, but also assists with clerking at the sale and larger projects such as freeze branding, taking photos, and recording videos of the sale cattle throughout the year.

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